Down On the Bayou
I love the indigo hillsides of bluebonnet season, but its the sunrise fields that come after bluebonnet season, that I most adore. The reds, ambers, blacks, whites, greens, and wheat blonde flowers, both blooming and crunchy, ready to drop seed, are my favorites. We took a walk along one of our cities bayous to capture what is in my daughters time, and the spring season in Texas, ephemeral. Our quilts go with us, always.
I’m laying on my bed, breastfeeding my daughter Yvonne Rose, who is a day old.
We lay beneath The Sky Quilt, a blanket I built while she was in utero, using for the first time, linen I hand dyed with indigo. The binding is made from an old tablecloth that belonged to her Great Grandparents, and on the back of the quilt, I included a spirit piece, cut from a vintage shirt her daddy bought while living in Germany.
With the quilt draped over our bodies, I am looking at it for the first time, and begin to criticize the hand stitching that holds the quilt together.
I machine piece all of my quilts, but the actual quilting is done by hand. Those three layers: the pieced quilt top, the cotton batting, and the backing, are pulled together with my imperfect little stitches, using a thick cotton thread from Japan called sashiko.
These quilt stitches are so irregular!
There is no symmetry between them!
They are running at warp speed across the patchwork quilt top!
They aren’t even kept in a straight line!
What was I thinking?!
How absurd in that moment, to critique my stitches after having just given birth. I am not a perfectionist, but those stitches are terrible!
What came to the surface, once I asked the editor in my mind to hush, was the message of those hand stiches telling their story, one that is abstract and honest, and far more illustrative than my memories had allowed me to recollect.
For the first time in a year it seemed, I could reflect. My hand quilted lines were like looking into a reflection pond.
The stitches told the story of a mother working a full time corporate job and a part time job for a non-profit Waldorf school, of a mother tending to her pregnant vessel, and her 7 year old, and her husband…. of a mother determined to grow tomatoes with success this year, beneath the stifling blanket of a humid Texas summer, of a mother taking part in an art performance hand quilting live for an audience, of a mother trying to play her part as Maid of Honor in a wedding, of a mother so desperate to finish her baby’s quilt that she threw all concepts of zen and hand quilting meditation out of the window, just to get-it-done!
In the beat of a moment, I could look back at the past year, my baby at my breast, and read the hectic rush that brought us to this beautiful, calm moment.
What makes quilts the magical craft that it is, is the stories.
Her quilt, covering us with warmth, is just the first chapter. These special blankets hold histories and stories told in pattern, color, materials, execution, and place. Talk to any person with a quilt, and they’ll tell you a story about it. It is one of the few objects we have in our lives where threads meander and wander along, to keep families connected, to keep spirits high, to keep bodies warm.
So from that day forward, The Sky Quilt became a journal. It’s not a journal that writes itself, but a journal that is written in spirit.
I’m mindful of the quilt as it travels with us, her piece of home that comes along.
On her first trip to the beach, she laid on the quilt alongside her first Halloween pumpkin, picked up from a patch on the way there. The wind whipped over her little body and her legs floated above her waist. She was at the beach! An ocean full of sand lay beneath her, and she loved it.
On the porch of our holiday cabin, we sun bathed in the winter sun at the foot of Dos Corazones mountains, she broke the wind with her quilt. I stood on my own quilt nearby, our morning ritual that week, stretching to the clear sky above and watching the light change on the landscape.
After our annual New Year’s hike, her first one ever, we lay her on the back of the truck, the quilt beneath her, to give her body a rest from being carried. Above her, wise pine trees stand looking down. She looks up at them and smiles.
On her first trip into a National Park, she laid on the quilt in a patch of blonde straw. Hawks circled above us. Her sister was calling to the skies saying “Guys! You can see the whole world from up here!” Nestled into the landscape, she lay safe, calm with the big world surrounding her.
Yvonne won’t remember the view that day, when the layers of earth painted stripes of purple mountains in front of us, where the Santa Elena Canyon was the only formation that dropped down to the Earth, where we could see across Texas and off into Mexico for miles and miles.
She won’t remember these times, but her quilt will. And I have grown to love those messy hand quilted stitches, a mark in time to remember the days before she arrived.
The Best Strawberry Flax Muffins
We've had a rain spell here in Houston as the summer winds down, and with those dark clouds above, the house is stormy feeling. Makes me want muffins!
I love this recipe because you can easily substitute the flax for bran, depending on whatever you have in the pantry. You can also add 1/2 cup of raisins, 1 cup of blueberries or 1 cup of blackberries instead of the strawberries.
I get my 8 year old involved, who wants to be baker when she grows up. The bonus in helping her Mum is she gets to lick the bowl while they bake!
THE BEST STRAWBERRY FLAX MUFFINS
Preheat oven to 375degrees F, grease muffin pan
1 1/2 cup ground flax seed
1 cup buttermilk (if you don't have buttermilk, mix regular whole milk with a teaspoon of lemon juice to make buttermilk)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup organic strawberries washed and diced
Mix flax and milk. Let stand.
Beat together egg, sugar, vanilla and oil.
Add flax mixture.
Sift in flour, baking powder and baking soda.
Mix, then fold in the strawberries.
Bake for 15-20 minutes.
Let stand for 10 minutes, then eat warm
(preferably with a slather of butter in the middle)!
The Best Fig Jam Recipe
I would be remiss if I didn't share this easy recipe with you. All you need is figs, sugar, lemons, jars, time and a lil love!
Each year around the 4th of July my fig tree explodes with the plumpest, sweetest jeweled figs, more than we are able to pick and eat within the time frame it requires. I don't know what kind of fig they are, I took a cutting from my neighbors "mother tree" and grew a baby from a 6 inch stem. It's now 8 feet tall by 10 feet wide and produces pounds and pounds of fruit. My experience is that once you pick a fig, you better eat it within a day or two. Otherwise, look for ways to cook with them, or bottle them into delicious fig jam!
THE BEST FIG JAM RECIPE
Wash your figs.
Slice the stems off their tops, cut them in half. I like my jam chunky!
For every cup of figs use half a cup of sugar. (ie. 4 cups of figs, use 2 cups of sugar.)
Stir your figs and sugar into a heavy pot on the stove top at a low temp until sugar is dissolved.
For every 2 cups of figs, squeeze half a lemon into the pot. This is the pectin agent.
Turn stove up to medium until it boils, then reduce to a bubbling simmer for one hour.
Stir frequently to avoid the bottom burning.
Test the thickness of your jam by putting a dollop onto a saucer. Place into the freezer for 3 minutes.
Take it out, turn saucer on its side and if it slowly runs, then your jam is the perfect consistency.
If not, simmer for another 15-20 minutes. Continue testing for desired consistency.
Ladle your hot jam into clean sterilized jars.
Then wait for the lids to POP!
Once cooled, add your label.
Hot fresh scones with fig jam and real whipped cream on a fall morning... I can't wait!
A place to share my quilting process, bits and pieces from parenting and home educating, and other discoveries. Join in the conversation and follow along on Instagram @campfirequilts